The United States Military had seen Chinese activity around Scarborough Shoal, a reef that was seized by China from the Philippines nearly four years ago that could lead to more land reclamation in the disputed West Philippine Sea (South China Sea), Reuters reported citing a U.S. Navy official.
Admiral John Richardson, head of U.S. naval operations, expressed concern that the case brought by the Philippines against China over West Philippine Sea could be a trigger for China to create a blockade in the busy trade route.
According to Richardson, Chinese activity has seen in the northern part of the Spratly Islands around Scarborough Shoal, 200 km west of the Philippines’ Subic Bay naval base.
“I think we see some surface ship activity and those sorts of things, survey type of activity, going on. That’s an area of concern … a next possible area of reclamation,” he said.
He said China’s pursuit of territory in the West Philippine Sea could threaten decades of open access and introduce “new rules” that will required countries to asked for permission before passing those waters.
When asked if China declare an air defense identification zone (ADIZ) in the region just like it did in the East China Sea in 2013, Richardson said: “It’s definitely a concern.”
“We will just have to see what happens,” he said. “We think about contingencies and … responses.”
According to Richardson, the United States will continue to carry out freedom-of-navigation in disputed South China Sea to make sure the sea lanes in in the region open.